If you’re looking for a getaway that is conveniently located in metro Denver, check out Chatfield State Park. Here you can find a variety of activities for every age and interest. Things to do include boating, birding, hiking and biking, camping, fishing, swimming, and horseback riding. There’s a field where your model airplane can take flight, and an off-leash dog area where your best friend can romp around. You can even launch your hot air balloon at the park.
Chatfield is easy to find, located just south of C-470 between Wadsworth and S. Santa Fe Drive. It was named for Isaac Chatfield, an early settler. The area experienced several major floods in the 1930s and 1940s, culminating with the great flood of June 1965. Following that disaster, Chatfield Dam was constructed for flood control. Upon completion, the dam and reservoir were opened as a recreation area in 1975. Since then, the increased demand for water in the metro area has led to the Chatfield Reallocation Project, which will expand the reservoir to hold an additional 20,600 acre feet of water. The project has sparked controversy due to its adverse effects on wildlife habitat. A map of construction closures can be found on the project site.
Boating on the reservoir is one of the park’s most popular activities. The park includes a full-service marina for boat rentals and storage. The reservoir also offers a swim beach, open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Fishing is also available; the reservoir is stocked with a variety of fish including trout, bass, walleye, perch, and catfish. Jet skiing, water skiing, sailboarding and paddleboarding are also permitted at Chatfield.
There’s plenty to do on land at Chatfield, too. The campground is available all year (reservations must be made in advance) and picnic grounds are also available. The park has 26 miles of biking and hiking trails, both paved and unpaved. Most of the trails are also open to horseback riders. Chatfield is also a popular spot for hot air ballooning, especially on weekend mornings. (A permit is required).
Chatfield provides many opportunities for wildlife viewing. The park is home to a wide variety of bird species, as well as frogs, turtles, rabbits, squirrels, prairie dogs, deer, coyotes, and the occasional bear. The park’s mixed-prairie and wetland ecosystems also contain many diverse species of plants.
Dogs are allowed everywhere at Chatfield except for the swim beach. Dogs must be on a leash, except at the designated off-leash dog area. The park conducted a number of studies before opening the off-leash area — for information, see the following publications:
- Chatfield State Park Dog Off-Leash Area Management Plan
- The Effects of Off-Leash Dog Areas on Birds and Small Mammals in Cherry Creek and Chatfield State Parks
- The Influence of Pet Recreation Areas on Soil and Water Quality at Chatfield State Park
- Off-Leash Area User Study: Chatfield State Park
- Public Feedback on Chatfield and Cherry Creek State Park Dog Training Areas
Be sure to check Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Chatfield homepage for information on activities and events, like the Saturday morning bird walk coming up on August 31. Chatfield is open expanded hours, 5am to 10pm daily — a great place for an early morning jog or a moonlit hike. To find more State Parks, see Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s parks guide.